Editor’s Note: Jackson Rudd and Evan Hall are the minds behind the fantastic Jazz blog Sloan v. Sheed. We are happy to announce their addition to the Salt City Hoops team. Here’s their manifesto:
Everything in life is a story of some sort, but following sports gives us the luxury of feeling like we’re in the story while still giving us enough detachment to understand we’re reading it–or watching it–as it unfolds. Most of us don’t really know the players we root for or against. I for instance, passionately cheer the demise of Kobe Bryant as I witness it on the basketball court, but I would never wish him ill in his personal life. His divorce brought me no joy, but watching Raja Bell get in his face and in his head on the court brings me an abundance of it. When the Lakers walked off the court on Saturday night, I was overjoyed they were walking off as losers. They had that loss coming, I thought, but not because of any flaws they might have as people. I have no idea about any of that, just like I have no idea how C.J. Miles behaves when he’s out with friends. I don’t know Pau Gasol. He may be a personable guy, but I couldn’t care less. The question that concerns us is this: Who is Pau Gasol when he steps on that hardwood? Sure, we may like players who behave a certain way off the court (John Stockton, anyone?), but we also like players who may not. Sports are nothing more than a stage–an opportunity to root for actors.
This is why Jackson and I wrote Sloan v. Sheed. We never posted graphs with advanced metrics proving Paul Millsap’s merit as an All-Star (though I appreciated this one, and if anyone wants to make that infographic, I’d love to see it). Numbers can tell a story, but we enjoy the narrative that underscores the sport. When I watch Earl Watson throw an alley-oop to C.J. Miles that brings the ESA to its feet, I’m very interested in the sheer aesthetic beauty of the act. But it hardly ends there. That alley-oop is also another line in another chapter in a saga about Earl Watson that he’s writing every game. That alley-oop points to the nuanced brilliance that is Earl Watson’s oncourt persona, and that nuanced brilliance is what fascinates me. That’s what sends us scrambling for our laptops after a Jazz game. Because that deserves to be dissected. Someone needs to describe the way Earl Watson injects energy and inspiration into previously lifeless basketball players with the simple lob of a basketball.
In that way, writing about sport should be no different than writing about art, or literature, or music. When something is created, we need to contextualize it. We need to reduce it, to define it, to find the meaning in it. When Gordon Hayward throws down a dunk on a break-away, he has created something and it should be described. In the most important Jazz game of the season so far, Laker coach Mike Brown entered stage right in the third act, lost his mind and body on the officiating crew, and (with assistance), exited stage left, swaying the momentum of the game. A character largely (and deservedly) ignored up to that point (Kobe is the real coach of that team), altered the plot and left us scrambling for meaning as the Jazz exorcized the demons of a losing streak and a feuding owner and legendary player.
This is how we engage with what we witness. So in the wake of the Great Laker Takedown of 2012, Jackson and I are happy to join the Salt City Hoops team. This Jazz season is a narrative that deserves to be told.